Sunday, September 18, 2011


One wouldn’t accuse Sarah and I of being overly ‘invested’ in campus life, since I began at Fordham. We take advantage of the gym and the beautiful grounds to run through in the morning, but - save for the occasional visiting dignitary, interesting lecture, or free meal - we tend to be disconnected from activities on campus. So as we approach the end of our time here, we figured that homecoming would be a good chance to check out some sports.

Coming from Columbus, I was assuming that Sarah would be underwhelmed by the football culture surrounding Fordham. She probably (and correctly) was. Regarding scale, of course, Fordham can’t compare to Columbus*, but the Fordham alumni association did a nice job of rolling out the red carpet for all the returning alumni… and some graduate student hangers-on. The free food and booze was flowing and the atmosphere was upbeat and fun in the tent before the game. I was surprised at the number of blazers and ties that were on display though. (These east-coasters will get dressed up for anything…even a football game.)

The game did not disappoint either. We brought in Columbia (figuring we could definitely beat this ivy-league push-over), but they put up a fight. The game was decided by a 99-yard interception return for a Fordham touchdown on a Columbia attempt to score on a fourth and one at the goal line. In the end Fordham smashed the mighty __________of Columbia (who knows what that school’s mascot is anyhow?)

We had two new students from South Africa who had never been to an American Football game before, so I spent the majority of the time explaining all the rules and nuances of the game. Growing up in America, I had never really thought about it, but football is really quite complicated. I dare the reader to think for a second where exactly they would begin if they were asked, “how does this game work?” It’s quite a task, but as they began to understand the basic structure and rules of the game it was really fun to start explain the nuances and strategy of things. Football is a neat sport. We’ll see if we’re back for Homecoming next year as Alumni.

*Note that both Fordham’s coaching staff and players adhere to the Jesuit tradition of not selling awards or signatures for tattoos. So that’s kind of a difference too, I suppose.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Friday Funny

Happy Friday everyone!

In July we were introduced to a fun little game called planking. It's been around for awhile, but we're not very good at staying on top of what all the hip kids are talking about (des
pite nearly living and working daily on a college campus).


Well folks, yet again we're out of date. Now, we should be batmanning:

Time to start conditioning our feet muscles.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thank you France

Where do you get this view of lower Manhattan? I'll give you two hints...

Here's her right arm...

Here's her left arm...

Here's her nose...

You're right! Lady Liberty herself. Today Dominic and I climbed the 357 steps up into her crown and learn about this generous gift from the people of France.

While the artist Bartholdi worked with a man named Viollet-le-Duc to design her head and arm, he began collaborating with Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel in 1880. Eiffel opted not to use a completely rigid structure so that the statue could move with the winds of New York Harbor and as the metal expanded on hot summer days. His design was also an example of curtain wall construction where the exterior is not load bearing but supported by an interior framework. Does this framework look familiar to any Paris tower you've seen?

We climbed that spiral staircase in the center to get up here and peer out of her crown's windows...

It was a somber day in NYC today. Rather than comment on the emotions we felt and the stories we heard I'll leave you with a dedication to those fire fighters and police offers who lost their lives:

And an image of the building progress of one of the WTC buildings from the harbor:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Borough Updates

Back from it's summer hiatus, the Bedford Mosholu Community Association is in action once again! Each month a group of invested citizens (including yours truly) meets to discuss our neighborhood and its issues. We started the 2011 season with a bang last night.

Right off the bat we were re-introduced to our dedicated executive leadership by President Barbara. I'm not sure how long Barbara has been managing this group, but I'm going to guess somewhere between 40 and 55 years. She conveniently lives upstairs from our meeting room and we see her around town at cultural events every once in awhile. Her sister also attends. Together, they remind me of Aunt Mary and Aunt Dee. My favorite leader is Grace, the treasurer. She's got spunk and math skills that would make a calculus professor weep. She informed us that we have an organizational balance of $1,925.22 for our monthly postcards, stationary, rent, Verizon phone bill and electricity expenses. Not bad.

We learned that over the summer the construction company finished the exterior of the 'intermodal transportation facility' (aka parking garage) down the street and they're working to get the electricity and plumbing finished by the expected deadline this February. Barbara said she'd believe it when she sees it. In addition to general updates, we learned that the association is working to get some historic signage posted on Perry Avenue, trying to determine who is responsible for flooding issues at a common intersection, and asking for support to keep our post offices open. All this while inviting volunteers to help out with a "It's My Park" Day on October 15.

All of these announcements are terribly exciting and make me very proud to be a resident here, but I just about lost it when our special guest stood up to speak. Would you believe State Senator Gustavo Rivera came to our little gathering? Well he did and it was inspiring.

Senator Rivera had me at his first announcement: An initiative called Bronx CAN. Before answering all of our questions and addressing our concerns one-by-one, he took a few minutes to reminded us of his administration's health priority for our borough. After making sure that we were all aware that Bronx County is the most unhealthy in NY state, he shared his own experience with weight management and encouraged each of us to use the resources we have (no matter how minimal) to take care of our health. He said that each month the office will be launching different priorities to direct constituents to resources. July was Green Market promotion, August was public activity and exercise, September is access to healthcare and October will address health in our schools.

The Association was most interested in hearing Senator Rivera's position on three issues:
  1. Redistricting
  2. Park land (near the 'intermodal transportation facility)
  3. Post office closings
Redistricting is a new concept to me, but an issue with deep-seeded political implications. According to Barbara our lines expired with the 2010 census and we are trying to urge state government to hire an independent commission to draw the new districts. While an independent commission is unlikely, Senator Rivera explained that if the Governor vetos the lines twice the task defaults to a judge called a 'Special Master' (I wish I had that title). The Special Master will draw new lines based on population data, legal restrictions and public opinion so we were all urged to go to a hearing to put our thoughts on the record and 'make our voices heard'. The sad thing for me is that even after the Special Master finishes his work, law suits can be brought against the lines. Hopefully everything will be worked out by the 2020 census.

There was a new guy sitting next to me last night who was silent until this point. He must have been inspired by the hearing process because all of a sudden out of no where he went off on a polite but lengthy rant about how he's a school social worker who is frustrated by violence and gangs in the Bronx and he just wants the community to work together for something good. He referred to himself as a 'young cat' who was angered by the sense of individualism people have here.

Much to Senator Rivera's credit, he waited for the new guy to finish then dropped into 'young cat' colloquial speech to build up his constituent on the idea of community. He reminded the cat that his attendance at this meeting was exactly what builds community. I have to hand it to our elected official, even I was inspired to volunteer for It's My Park day after that.

Senator Rivera left on a high note with an encouragement to all of us to visit his office in the Bronx. I just might. We were all feeling good until a debate broke out about the police report. I suppose this is what democracy means.

As I walked home talking about pooper-scooper practices with my neighbor Bri and her dog Princess and I felt great that I could be a part of this place. God bless the Bronx.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Back to School | Making the Grade

As Dominic headed off to his first day of school yesterday I took my worms on a field trip to the Botanical Garden in my GNAUSA cart. The Bronx Green-Up* was hosting a booth at the farmer's market and after a year of watching those little worms consume all our compostables I was wondering how their ecosystem was holding up.

I rolled up to the table and a Master Composter named Junior was delighted to use a plastic fork to poke through my container. As he pushed aside the remains of our produce he commented on how he likes to look at people's composts because it shows what kind of diet they have. I wondered what he thought of my avocado peel (the worms have been working on that for months) but I didn't ask. I was curious about fruit flies though, which I have seen come by from time to time. He gave me this tip: lay a full newspaper on top of the soil. The grown flies will not be able to escape to reproduce and it doesn't hurt the worms one bit.

As it turns out, soil containers (the kind I started) aren't the Green-Up's ideal. They much prefer newspaper. To make a newspaper compost you would place your worms in half of the container, add your food scraps and then plop some moist newspaper strips (about 1 in wide) on top. The worms work through everything creating compost itself - which is better than my soil/compost mixture. Purer would probably be the appropriate term. You just push that aside as it develops and continue adding your food products to the side with the worms. I would use compost if I had a garden, but for now my plants are perfectly content in their potting soil.

Despite my set up, Junior was complimentary. He said I had a good number of mites. This is a good thing since apparently they help the worms break down the food (worms don't have teeth after all). He also noted that there is no foul odor coming from the bin and that the moisture seemed to be balanced. I was shocked by his approval. I thought for sure I had killed off every last worm. I'll admit that I accidentally forgot them on the fire escape during one of those early-summer heat episodes we had, they must just be far more resilient than I originally anticipated.

I got up the nerve to ask - I was just dying to know from the compost master - if I was being graded on my bin how would I do? Imagine my delight when he gave me an A! How's that for lifelong learning. I'm a real urban composter!

As if the day could get any better, I left the worms with Junior and finished up my grocery shopping and found out it was the Green Market's 75th anniversary. I got a brand new reusable bag for spending $10!

Here's a picture of Dominic on first day of class. Happy Back to School season everyone!

*The Bronx Green-Up is a community outreach program that sends great teachers like Junior to the Garden to provide horticultural advice, technical assistance and training to community gardeners, school groups and other community organizations.